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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Jenkins

Lessons my mum taught me

Seeing as Mothers’ Day is upon us again already (it appears to come round quicker each year these days), I thought it only fitting that I share a few pearls of wisdom my mother has passed me over the years.

Firstly, I should probably point out that my mother isn't a high-flying business woman. She isn’t Karen Brady, Deborah Meaden or any of the other women that appear to fly through Dragons Den these days, nor has she ever had any aspiration as far as I know to replicate what these women do. I should probably also point out that my mother isn’t a stay at home mum either. My mum falls (or fell as I should more accurately point out as she's now retired) into that middle ground of raising two kids and holding down a steady job at the same time.

My mum in fact held the same position as cashier of a high street bank not too far from home for more than 25 years, and whilst this might not be the most high-flying of jobs, there are numerous lessons I learnt over the years in watching what she did and how she did it. 

So in honour of mothers day, and when better to share this... here are a couple of pearls of wisdom passed to me by my wonderful mum.

1.       Team player

My mum is a strong team player. She had her personal preferences of where she enjoyed working, one particular branch being her favourite, but the cashier team across Bristol is small and wasn't always reliable, and even though she didn’t always enjoy it, my mum was always willing to go wherever needed to make sure things ran smoothly. Where others may have called in sick or simply refused to change their day-to-day routine, my mum went about it all with a smile and saw that this change in location was only ever short term, often returning from the new location having found something to enjoy about it. 

2.       Loyalty

My mum is loyal, she worked for the same bank for more than 25 years which by all accounts is something quite rare these days. I can’t begin to imagine the changes she saw over the years as various new technology got ushered in, the cashiers often being the last to find out and even more often being the ones having to make the biggest change. Where other employees fell by the way-side, some ousted through various change programs, others moving up the career ladder and others simply stepping down, my mum simply dealt with every change thrown at her by the bank and as a result was always regarded as a valued member of the bank.

3.       Hard work

My mum isn’t afraid of hard-work. As a student, I would often have to walk past the door of my mum’s bank on the way to university and being the dutiful son, would often stop in with a coffee for her on my way. What struck me over the years is just how hard her job was. Diligently standing in the queue waiting to speak to my mum through the glass panel she sat behind, I got to see first hand how she rarely got time to herself. Its not like an office job where you can take yourself to the kitchen or outside for a cheeky breather. The cashiers were on hand all day facing all manners of people and their specific needs. I lost count of the times I heard her come home from work saying “I didn’t even get time to get a cup-of-coffee today”, her  lunch breaks barely enough time to even eat a sandwich let alone recharge your batteries.  

4.       Composure

As children we were taught the value of saying please and thank you (something I find myself repeating like an endless chant to my own children these days) and to this day I can’t say I have ever heard my mum utter a swear word or even a bad word about someone. That’s not to say she hasn’t said them (or thought them), but more a case that my mum knows the importance of setting a good example and in working terms, being professional. Like I mentioned previously, I stood in line on many occasions waiting to speak with my mum at the bank and got to see first hand the various characters she dealt with as ‘customers’ of the bank and the rude way some felt it was their right to speak to her in. Where others would have lost their rag or be driven to being rude in return, my mum always kept her cool knowing the importance of dealing with the situation in a calm and composed manner. 

5.       Customer service

Similar to the value in having composure in tense situations, my mum always knew the importance of providing excellent customer service and did just that for more than 25 years in the end. I’ve heard first hand from customers stood in line just how much they value her personal touch in dealing with their requests. Her skill in remembering the smaller details of each customer all contributed to making the experience of going to the bank all the more special. She took a mundane task for most people and through a little bit of care and attention turned it into a pleasurable experience. 

6.       Friendship

Just like the way my mum treated her customers, my mum knew and continues to know the value of being a friend to those at work. Many of the people my mum has worked with over the years have remained friends with her outside of the bank for 20+ years and whilst they do not see each other as often these days, the friendship is still there. The odd coffee or Christmas card pays homage to the bond she built with people in all those years at work together.

As you can probably tell. I’m proud of my mum, and I like to think that I am a better leader, employee, co-worker as a direct result of these lessons. So happy Mothers Day mum!

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